On each anniversary I walk by Engine 28 and Ladder 11’s stationhouse . In 2001 they were my local FDNY company who would serenade the East Village with “Lowrider” blaring from the hook-and-ladder’s PA. They used to buy groceries at my supermarket.
Today I took Lila with me. We talked a lot, explaining how today was a sad anniversary instead of a happy one. She knows a little, as she puts it, “a building fell down and lots of firemen got hurt.”
Each year after their memorial mass a large group of firemen and their families gather near the station. Lila was asking why they were “all dressed up” in their formal uniforms. Soon enough the questions are going to get more difficult to answer. I told her that today was a special day for thanking firemen. I also thank the police, military, and Con-Ed who were busy restoring power the next day, if not sooner. And especially that one MTA bus driver who was driving his M14 bus up Avenue A after the towers fell, with a foot of debris on the bus’s roof.
This year I finally shook hands with and thanked one of the firemen in person, something I’ve been wanting to do for four years but never found the courage.
My voice broke. We both stood there quietly for a few seconds, looking down. I felt very small.